Staunton, Oct. 31 – The pogrom in Daghestan must serve as a reminder that wars can be lost on the home front, Mikhail Rostovsky says. “The clearest example of this is that Russia lost World War I not because it suffered military defeat at the front. The collapse of the frunt was the result of the collapse of the rear.” The same thing could happen again now.
The Moskovsky komsomolets observer says 2023 has been for Russia “a time of unexpected and powerful political crises, arising out of nowhere with the speed of a tornado and overturning the usual ideas about the social life of the country” (mk.ru/politics/2023/10/30/putin-popal-v-politicheskiy-smerch-dolgosrochnye-posledstviya-dagestanskikh-besporyadkov.html).
“Before the start of the Prigozhin putsch, it was thought that no serious attempt at a coup in Russia was possible, but it happened,” Rostovsky says. “Before the rising in Daghestan, it was thought that the upsurge in the conflict in the Middle East had detracted the West’s attention from Ukraine and thus strengthened Russia.” That is not true, and it arose in an unexpected place.
According to the commentator, “one of the undoubted changes for the better which have taken place in the years of Putin’s rule is that the North Caucasus has ceased to be a zone of sharp and permanent crisis. However, what happened in Makhachkala shows that this achievement is now under threat.”
To be clear, “Daghestan always was and will always remain an extraordinarily complex subject of the Russian Federation as far as administration is concerned.” Trying to administer it “from a single center” as is the case in Chechnya is impossible. Daghestan requires arrangements based on a careful balancing of forces, and that is hard to achieve.
And it is even more difficult when outside forces stand ready to try to exploit any shortcomings. Russians must remember that any such exploitation is possible only if the ground exists for doing so. Eliminating such possibilities thus requires addressing the entire range of governance.
At the start of “the special military operation,” the Kremlin did what was necessary to ensure the existence of a consensus about it, including using a variety of forceful ensures. But now that consensus is “under threat,” and its weakening could threaten the country as a whole, Rostovsky says.
A week ago, the commentator says, he would have agreed with US political scientist John Mearsheimer that Putin had the advantage in the Middle East over Joe Biden. But now, he continues, he is “not so certain.” The Middle East crisis is “a test for firmness not only for the West but for Russia as well.”
That “gives me a feeling of deep concern,” Rostovsky says, especially if the powers that be relax their vigilance or soften their approach. What happened in Daghestan represents “an extremely serious challenge for the Kremlin – a challenge it must meet with eyes wide-open” to just how dangerous it is.